Spring Design's Alex eReader is one of those products that probably would have gotten a lot more attention had it managed to come out before Apple's iPad. However, as it stands, the $399 Android-powered device, which features both a 6-inch e-ink display and a 3.5-inch, 16-bit color touch-screen LCD, is scheduled to ship in the middle of April and threatens to get overshadowed by the iPad's arrival on April 3.
Long and narrow, the 11-ounce Alex has an interesting shape, measuring 4.7 inches wide, 8.9 inches high, and less than a half inch thick. You can downloadand it's compatible with other bookstores that support Adobe DRM (you can read e-books in EPUB, PDF, HTML, and TXT formats), the Alex has no tie-in with Barnes & Noble, though Spring's e-reader shares some similar traits to Barnes & Noble's dual-screen Nook (in fact, Spring actually for similarities it saw in the Nook).
The Alex's key selling points are its built-in Wi-Fi, the ability to stream video and surf the Web (on its smaller color screen), and use certain Android applications. Also, Spring claims the Alex's e-ink display offers the fastest refresh rates on the market.
It comes with a 2GB removable memory card and the microSD expansion slot supports cards up to 32GB. Earphones, an AC/USB power connector, and a padded cover ship with the unit.
We look forward to getting our hands on the Alex once it ships. At its price point of $399, it falls between the iPad and e-readers like the $259 Nook and Kindle. Whether there's a market there will depend on whether the Alex really delivers on its promise as a hybrid e-reader/Android device. Unfortunately, the iPad may just be too tempting an alternative for $100 more.